Get By With a Little Help From Your Peers…

We’ve discussed in previous posts how networking is critical to your firm’s marketing and public relations success.  But, don’t overlook the significant positive impact your participation in a professional organization, peer group, or business leadership association can also have on your business’s internal operations.

Why join an executive leadership organization?

Running a business is hard work, especially when your organization is small and you don’t have a board of directors or a staff of managers off which to bounce ideas.  The business landscape is unpredictable and there are a lot of decisions that you have to make on your own on a daily basis.  The answers to questions and issues that arise may sometimes be easy and quick for you to solve, but sometimes they are much more complicated and have many different angles to consider.  That’s where a professional peer group can be hugely beneficial.

Who participates?

Generally, these groups are comprised of people from all different types of organizations and industries (although you can also find some that are geared specifically toward the financial industry) who are also managing their own businesses.  As the primary decision makers, your fellow participants have likely often been charged with finding resolutions to issues similar to those you face every day.  Therefore, who better to ask for input than this group? 

What’s the main purpose?

These organizations are formed primarily to provide a sounding board to their members.  As a participant, you can propose a situation to the group and receive direct, unbiased feedback from leaders of organizations similar in size and structure to yours.  Consider the perspectives you can receive from your peers who have faced the exact same situation as you but may have handled it in a variety of ways.  As part of a group discussion, you’ll have the opportunity to analyze the various outcomes and, based on your intimate understanding of your own business, determine which course of action is most appropriate.  You can move forward with the action with confidence because you know you’ve not just made a decision based on a whim or your own emotion.  Your peer group will provide you a level of objectivity that you may not otherwise have.

Your peer partners are there to be the board of advisors that you may not have the resources to build within your own organization.  They provide a means by which to test your ideas, build a strategy, and ensure your accountability to the project.  Professional development organizations are valuable in helping you generate unique ideas and maximize your results and your return on investment.

The information factor

As a business owner, you also need a constant, reliable stream of information on a multitude of industry, management, and human resources topics in order to stay well rounded and be successful.  Keeping up with technology and various means of communication will help you remain competitive.  Peer groups – your “knowledge network” – provide you a wealth of information and perspectives about what’s happening on these fronts.  Truth be told, it’s practically impossible for you to keep up on all the information you need for your business to reach its apex of success by researching it all on your own.  You are limited by time and your own aptitudes – for example, you may have very strong interpersonal skills that make you an excellent salesperson and leader for your employees, but may be weak in strategy development – so it’s important to surround yourself with experts knowledgeable in all sorts of areas who can fill in any gaps.  

A mentorship opportunity

Also, if you’re looking for a business mentor, an executive leadership group is a great place to start.  You’ll network with people who are managing all types of businesses with all levels of experience.  It’s a perfect opportunity to find a person who understands your business, your knowledge repertoire, and your strengths and weaknesses.  While the relationships you develop with members of your business leadership group are more focused on problem solving and strategy development, a mentor relationship is typically deep and long-term.  A mentor serves many roles: an advisor, an example, a sounding board, and a friend.

In sum, people who are active members of trade, business and professional organizations are generally prolific sources of information. Your participation in one gives you access to directories, newsletters, seminars, presentations, and more.  By networking via these methods, you can stay in touch with a vast array of business issues and trends.